Copper is an essential trace mineral that is used in a variety of processes in the body. The major function for copper is in catalyzing oxidation-reduction (REDOX) reactions important for the activity of a number of enzymes. Although copper is essential to health, most Western diets meet the recommended intake, making supplementation unnecessary in most healthy individuals.
Cases where copper deficiency may occur include patients who have undergone gastric bypass as well as chronic users of proton pump inhibitors, both of which interfere with copper absorption. Also, high levels of zinc intake may increase production of a protein known as metallothionein that can bind copper and reduce its levels in the body.
Although the REDOX chemistry catalyzed by copper is essential for a number of immune functions, copper also may play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Copper levels generally rise in the body with age, but seem to rise more sharply in those with Alzheimer's. Moreover, copper levels have been linked to Alzheimer's symptom severity, leading some to suggest that a lower copper intake may benefit the elderly.